DIAB Divinycell Matrix threewheeled eco vehicle

Clean Motion turns to Diab to reduce weight and energy use

Weight reduction is critical in decreasing harmful emissions from vehicles. The ZBee, a new urban vehicle from Clean Motion in Lerum, Sweden, achieves environmental goals by combining Divinycell Matrix 11-9 and H100 to optimize weight according to mechanical requirements.

Göran Folkesson has been thinking about vehicles for a long time. Cars are overdimensioned for the supermarket trips and other short errands we most often use them for, and this fact has always weighed heavily on his mind.

Although he had often toyed with ideas for light-weight alternatives, a trip to India in 2009 finally drove Folkesson to action. Observing the countless auto rickshaws in overcrowded streets, he recognized the huge potential for a threewheeled vehicle in an urban environment. But instead of a dirty two-stroke motor, he envisioned it running on clean, battery-supplied electric power.

That vision was the start of Clean Motion, the company Folkesson founded later on that year. Today Clean Motion is perfecting the ZBee, an electric threewheeler with room for three people and a protected compartment for luggage.

If successful, the ZBee will have a positive inf luence on the environment. It accelerates quickly and maneuvers easily, with up to three ZBees fitting into a single parking space. Yet it produces no noise or harmful emissions. With one or two battery packs and a range of up to 70 km on a single charge, it requires little maintenance and costs only a few cents per kilometer of driving. In total, the ZBee uses just 7% of the energy consumed by a standard car.

The key to the equation is, of course, the ZBee’s low weight. The ZBee has a light monocoque construction of sandwich composite, based on fiberglass skins and two types of Diab foam core. Clean Motion has considered skins of carbon fiber, which would reduce the weight by a further 30%, but has decided to use fiberglass in order to minimize the ZBee’s purchase price.

Naturally, crash safety performance has also influenced the choice and distribution of materials. Divinycell Matrix 11-9 is used for the lowest weight wherever possible, but Divinycell H100 is used where a higher density is needed for stress resistance, for example in the back of the seat. In some ways, the ZBee is dimensioned more for safety than it is for driving, and specialized research has been performed to optimize the composite materials for impact tolerance.

Development of the ZBee continues, especially when it comes to weight, which Clean Motion hopes to reduce by another 20%. Other projects seek to refine the cockpit environment or enhance its weather protection, and young university talents are often a part of the work. Diab is closely involved as well, both in further optimizing the use of Divinycell and in producing kits to streamline ZBee production.

Meanwhile, the ZBee has made its debut at the Future World Summit in Abu Dhabi, and Göran Folkesson’s team is hard at work preparing the road to launch. Type approval and EU registration are underway, and in May ten vehicles will be delivered to communities in Sweden for final testing. Thirty more vehicles will follow at the end of the summer, along with tooling investments for production and release on a wider scale. If all goes well, the ZBee will roll onto urban streets in Q4 of this year.


Louise Eriksson Jacka
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